A violent killer and drug dealer is working as a taxi driver in Kirklees. Details were confirmed by Kirklees Council after the Huddersfield Examiner received a tip-off from a fellow driver unhappy that someone with a manslaughter conviction is operating as a cabbie, saying it was ‘shocking’ that he was allowed a licence in the first instance.
The cabbie was put behind bars for six years in 1982 after being found guilty of the manslaughter of a teenager, who was pregnant at the time. He returned to prison in 2005 after a court heard he stashed £40,000 of drug money in a bank deposit box. He was sentenced to eight years after admitting the offence.
Kirklees Council concedes it did give a taxi licence to the man. A spokesman for Kirklees Council said: “Decisions are taken on a case by case basis and in line with the criteria in place at the time. The criteria were last amended in October 2014. The council takes account of all relevant national guidance and regularly reviews good practice in other local authorities in respect of its procedures for licensing the drivers of taxis and private hire vehicles.”
New rules which were backed by councillors last year that mean that anyone with a manslaughter conviction will “not normally be granted” a licence, unless there are exceptional circumstances. For drug offences, the applicant will need to be free of conviction for three to five years before consideration.
The new policy also included a controversial rule that would see taxi drivers suspended if they get nine penalty points on their licence, pending a Driving Standards Test.
Kirklees Council’s Licensing and Safety Committee backed the policy change, but after large-scale protests from taxi drivers, Cllr David Sheard, council leader, asked Cllr Mumtaz Hussain, chair of the committee who voted against the rule, to re-think the policy. No date has yet been set for the Committee to do that.
When informed of the case, Makhan Singh, of the Hackney Carriage Association, said: “Wow, I didn’t know that. It’s a bit of a shock. They take badges away from drivers or turn down applications for far less than that.”
According to the Examiner, Councillors have recently granted taxi licences to 26 people with motoring or criminal convictions. And it comes in light of a clampdown on people with convictions limiting who can have a taxi badge.
In a Freedom of Information request, Kirklees Council has outlined the nature and outcome of 67 taxi drivers referred to a Regulatory Panel. The panel of Councillors sit in private, with neither the press nor general public allowed to attend or know who is involved. Kirklees does not indicate what the convictions are for.
The Examiner understands that in at least one case, a taxi driver was refused a licence in a neighbouring authority due to alleged criminal behaviour but has been given one by Kirklees.
An initial request by the Examiner to establish how many taxi drivers had criminal convictions was refused by Kirklees Council as it claimed it would take too long to look through the files. The council has no overall summary of the extent of convictions about people it issues with taxi driver badges. The council said 110 taxi drivers appeared before the Regulatory Panel in 2012 for ‘applications to assess the fitness and propriety’; with 110 in 2013 and 56 up to November 2014.
A council director has been given authority to remove taxi driver licences if there are concerns about the safety and wellbeing of young and vulnerable people. Councillors ruled Kirklees Council’s Director of Place, Jacqui Gedman, can step in if there are immediate concerns relating to a taxi badge holder. It will speed up the process of a driver having to wait for a monthly Regulatory Panel and take taxi drivers off the road more quickly if evidence suggests they pose a risk.
Cllr David Ridgway said it “strengthened” the process but still allows councillors “the right to determination and the ratification in such circumstances”. Cllr Erin Hill said: “This should mean a better situation for drivers, I’m sure we’re all aware of the arguments posed by those who opposed the nine-point suspension rule and the points they made about the affect on income, family and quality of life when drivers were forced to wait weeks for a re-test. This means a suspended driver will no longer have to go weeks without work while they wait for the next meeting of the Regulatory Panel.
“We are absolutely not trying to make life difficult for taxi drivers. This is good for the public, good for safeguarding and it’s good for taxi drivers who are law abiding and provide a public service to the people who rely on them.”
Cllr Steve Hall, Cabinet member for highways, added: “We’ve got to make sure that the people who are given licences are fit and able people.”
Cllr Robert Light, Conservative leader, echoed a similar point: “In bringing this emergency procedure, it does seem to suggest that things haven’t been done right or as well as they could have been done in the past and we need to look at that situation carefully and reflectively.”
He added: “There is almost a view amongst some people in the community that a licence is a right. It is not, it is something we give to people to carry out an activity if we think they are proper people to do it.”
Mmmm... We have run this expose from the Huddersfield Examiner as part of a growing trend - Mansfield a while back, Rochdale, Milton Keynes, Rotherham - whereby the “bad apple” syndrome is harming a large number of legitimate licence holders in these areas, purely because so many of those bad apples should not have been granted a licence in the first place.
We have banged on about a lack of up to date Home Office guidelines for years; unfortunately too many licensing authorities are still going by the Home Office 1992 guidelines as set out in Appendix D, whereby so many years must pass without repeat crimes, so many years must pass without a conviction of certain types, and so on.
So this council says that anyone with a manslaughter conviction will “not normally be granted” a licence. Would you want someone who had taken a life, or who had committed a sex crime, no matter under which circumstances or how many years previously, transporting your wife/daughter/granddaughter - on their own? There should be no leeway whatsoever for those who have committed certain crimes - but until and unless the Government issues current guidelines based on the nature of crimes committed now and not a quarter of a century ago, there will continue to be bad apples slipping off the conveyor belt sorting out this lot. - Ed.